BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Unacceptable? You bet. Tom Allen made that clear.
Yes, Indiana found a second-half way during Saturday night’s 35-22 victory over Idaho, but the Hoosier coach wants more, expects more.
“We sure enjoy making it hard on ourselves,”
Hard or not, IU’s 35 second-half points blasted away danger and suggested, quarterback Connor Bazelak said, future potential.
“Everyone wants to see 50 points in the first half,” he said. “The good part of it was it forced us to come all together.
“Scoring 35 in the second half shows we are able to come together. We overcame adversity. It’s good experience for down the road.”
A tough first half — in six possessions totaling just 110 yards and zero points, the Hoosiers (2-0) had one fumble, one interception, one missed field goal, one missed goal-line opportunity and two punts — left them fuming and focused.
Idaho (0-2) had no chance.
“I was pretty stern with them,” Allen said about his halftime message. “I encouraged our staff to do the same. That’s not the standard we have to play as a team.”
Stern didn’t mean screaming.
“It wasn’t a happy environment,” linebacker Aaron Casey said. “We weren’t playing the way we wanted to play. We knew we had to change it. Play like we know we can play and ball like we know we can ball.”
Added Bazelak: “It’s hard not to be frustrated, but the main message was stay the course. Keep playing our game. Let the big plays come. Don’t try to force them. We did a good job not forcing stuff and playing our game.”
Did they ever. The Hoosiers went from down 10-0 to ahead 23-10 faster than a Tom Brady retirement.
“We had a heck of a third quarter,” Allen said. “I envisioned that in the first quarter.
“I got after it at halftime, but I also told them to just play football. Play hard. Execute. Do what you’re supposed to do. Dig deep.”
The Hoosiers scored 23 points in a 10-minute, third-quarter blitz on a quarterback Donaven McCulley touchdown run, a safety, a 43-yard TD pass from Bazelak to tight end AJ Barner and a 26-yard scoring strike to D.J. Matthews Jr.
The offensive line blasted open holes it hadn’t before and tailback Shaun Shivers took full advantage to finish with 155 rushing yards and a touchdown. Tailback Josh Henderson added 58 yards and a TD.
IU rushed for 239 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
“It was awesome,” Bazelak said about the running game. “That takes the pressure off of me. The offensive line did a great job. All the running backs did a great job.”
Bazelak, after a slow start in part because of rainy weather, went 16-for-29 for 197 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
IU finished with 436 total yards.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Bazelak said, “but the ball was slick in the first half. That played a part in it.
“It was about getting in a rhythm. We started moving the ball. The run game got going and that gave me options. With this offense, when we’re good, we’re really good.”
The Vandals’ offense disappeared against a ferocious Hoosier third-quarter assault. It totaled minus-two yards on four drives before adding a couple of fourth-quarter scores that irritated Allen.
“Two of our best players gave up those last two touchdown,” he said. “Two of our best players on blown assignments. That’s a lack of focus. That’s my responsibility.”
Idaho had played Washington State tough in a 24-17 season-opening loss. That’s the same Washington State that upset Wisconsin on Saturday. Allen knew the challenge, and had lost his voice during last Wednesday and Thursday practices getting that across.
“I tried to make sure we didn’t take these guys for granted because we blew them out a year ago,” Allen said. “It wasn’t the same team. I knew they had talent and was good enough to beat us if we didn’t show up.”
Severe weather delayed the kickoff by 30 minutes, and a sometimes-torrential pre-game rain kept the stands mostly empty until action began.
In the first quarter, IU’s normally accurate kicker Charles Campbell missed field goals of 32 and 28 yards, although the 28-yarder didn’t count because an Idaho holding penalty gave the Hoosiers first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. They were stopped on fourth-and-1.
The Vandals then drove 98 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
IU fumbled on its next possession, but the defense forced a punt.
Idaho added a field goal. Bazelak threw an interception. The Vandals reached halftime with a 10-0 lead.
The Hoosiers needed a spark in the worst way.
They got it.
The defense forced a three-and-out to open the second half. Shivers busted a 39-yard run. Bazelak hit Matthews on passes of 15 and 10 yards that led to McCulley’s 4-yard touchdown run.
A safety quickly followed. Then came Bazelak’s 43-yard TD pass to Barner. In just over six minutes, IU had its first lead at 16-10.
Bazelak followed with a 26-yard TD pass to Matthews. Henderson had an 8-yard scoring run five seconds into the fourth quarter for a 29-10 lead.
Idaho added a couple of touchdowns. IU countered with Shivers’ 46-yard touchdown run.
On this night, it was enough.
“We didn’t start with the right intensity,” Casey said. “Our mindset wasn’t right and it showed it the first half. Luckily, we were able to come back, bow up, and get everybody together to a common goal.”
Courtesy of IUHoosiers.com